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Covering All Angles

High-throughput microscopy approach to identify changes in extracellular matrix helping diagnose cancers

23 July 2022

Covering All Angles

Most of your cells aren't free-floating. They sit in an extracellular matrix (ECM), which includes collagen fibres. As cancerous tumours grow, they remodel these fibres. Detecting this change could help diagnose cancer. However, these changes can’t be easily seen using the traditional method pathologists use to stain thin sections of tissue for cancer, H&E. Now, using polarimetric second-harmonic generation (P-SHG) microscopy combined with texture analysis, the team successfully reveal changes in collagen using H&E tissue sections. H&E images of human breast tissue – normal (top row) and cancerous (rows 2–4) – captured using traditional bright field microscopy were digitally processed to highlight collagen alone (first column). Next, the H&E tissue sections were imaged using P-SHG and digitally processed to highlight different collagen fibre characteristics (columns 2–5). This revealed significant differences between normal and cancerous tissue. Subsequent tests found this approach reliably detected cancer, highlighting its potential in diagnostics.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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